20 August, 1998
Island 1200 hours EDT.
Captain's Log, 22 August
Position 42 degrees,
07 minutes north latitude
We are now off the continental shelf, depth of water about 8000 feet. We spoke with a fishing vessel from Nova Scotia this morning, the Derrick and Stephane, who offered us a "little piece" of freshly caught swordfish. We offered some beer in return, and got about 30 pounds of fish, most of which we've crammed into the icebox. We also baked some up on the spot, and it was stupendous. So it's swordfish for breakfast lunch and dinner for the next 2 weeks, or however long we can keep it. We've cranked the little reefer unit as low as the thermostat will go in hopes of stretching it out.
By now we're pretty well adapted to the schedule, which is 4 hours on watch, and 8 hours off, with Joel and I taking turns backing Shifra up until she feels OK about standing watch alone at night. She does 8-12, Mike does 12-4, and Joel takes 4-8, the graveyard watch. He likes to watch the sun come up. No one has been seasick yet, and we are pretty well done being cautious about spending too much time below decks.
Weather has been very cooperative, now sunny with a gentle 12-knot breeze directly behind us. We could use more of it, having motored about 10 of the last 48 hours. But no one is whistling yet.
Saw a large sunfish lolling on the surface yesterday, about 6 feet in diameter. Strange creature. The usual small whales and occasional dolphins, but not as many as we expected on the banks.
Thanks for the e-mail messages. We do mail call around noon each day and greatly enjoy hearing from home. Keep those beeps and squawks coming!
Captain's log, 8/25
Position: 40 degrees
15 minutes north, 59 degrees 24 minutes west
We have now entered
the Gulf Stream, which should boost us by up to a knot over the next few
days. Fortunately, the wind and current are both southwest, which avoids
the unpleasant condition of wind against current. That is the situation
which causes the nasty, vertical seas the Gulf Stream is famous for. We
will soon be turning eastward to follow the 40th parallel for most of
the passage to the Azores. Yesterday was a rocky, wet one with winds to
30 knots, and a contrary current due to a back eddy off the north wall
of the gulf stream. We are back to moderately reefed sails now, in a brisk
but pleasant SW wind at 20 knots.
It looks like we have dodged Hurricane Bonnie. Even if it turns northward at this point, we will be far to the east. For once, we can say that a hurricane blew safely ashore. Sorry, Miami, nothing personal.
Captain's log, Local noon, 27 august
Position: 40 North,
53 deg. 33 min West
Presently running due east along the 40th parallel under cruising spinnaker and mainsail, with wind from the SW and the Gulf Stream in our favor. Speed through the water 5.5 knots; over the bottom, a blistering 6.5. The Concorde it's not.
Bonnie is pretty well
out of our picture, and hopefully Maine's as well. However we have had
some busy weather, with a parade of lows to the north, squalls and frequent
wind shifts over the past 2 days. That translates into lots of sail changes
and lots of "all
The swordfish is holding out; no crawly things yet. It is difficult to know, given our baseline, if mercury poisoning has set in yet.
Captain's log 29 AUGUST, Local noon
Bit of a respite today.
Yesterday was a Twilight Zone kind of day. We stopped counting squalls
after about #20, beginning around midnight. No "white squalls",
whatever those are, but lots of gray ones, a couple of pink ones around
sunset, and some really black ones during the night. Some just had a little
wind, some a little rain, some lots of both. Our beloved cruising spinnaker
tore in a sudden squall to 30 knots. A small tear, fixable in the Azores,
but that's out of the repertoire for the moment. We also spent the day
caught in another back eddy off the gulf stream, and had to get way north
to get out of it, which we are now. We really miss having the Gulf Stream
fax maps from NOAA, which are no longer broadcast, so we are just guessing
at the location of the stream based on historical data, water temperature,
and which direction we seem to be getting pushed at the moment. Fortunately,
we have now pushed east of the Grand Banks, at which the Stream begins
to widen, diffuse and hopefully quit boxing us about the ears. We almost
hove to for a rest last night, we were all so tired, but the prospect
of the remnants of Major Depression Bonnie nipping at our heels kept us
doggies moving right along.
Captain's Log, 1 September, 1300 utc
Position: 40d 28m
north, 42d 54m west
Update on Extraterrestrial storm Bonnie;
We have now almost fully recovered from the effects of this most unusual storm which is just now finally breaking up over the Azores. We were somewhat surprised when she turned away from Miami last week and headed ashore in the Carolinas; we were very surprised when she headed back out to sea, contrary to polite hurricane behavior. We were a little concerned about our friends when she turned toward New England, still at the very stately pace of 200 miles or so per day. We continued to feel pretty smug about our own position, 1000 miles to the east, in a zone which has seen only 1 low pressure system of this kind in august in the past 25 years. Needless to say, we were astounded to learn on Sunday afternoon that she had not only turned our way, but had covered 800 miles in 24 hours and was still packing a wallop: 50 knot winds predicted for our area. This had not been on our agenda for the evening. As it turned out, it was not a direct hit. The storm passed 200 miles to the north of us, but with a 900-mile diameter, the difference was academic.
So we battened down the hatches (literally), removed all extraneous canvas, lashed everything down, and went through our pre-storm checklist, at which point we discovered a seriously frayed steering cable, which would not be reliable under the kind of loads we expected. This required setting up our emergency tiller for steering, which is fine in a pinch, but not the easiest way to handle a 40 foot boat in a storm. We had a choice of 2 tactics: the passive one would have been to put out a storm anchor, an 18-foot diameter nylon parachute which is designed to hold the boat head-to-wind. Its main advantage is that the crew can get out of the weather and rest somewhat. The active approach would be to sail with the wind under storm jib, then bare masts only above 40 knots or so. This seemed preferable to us, since it would keep us moving toward our destination and Joel and I had successfully done it on the trip to Ireland in similar winds for several days, albeit with a steering wheel. It should be easier here, with much warmer water and a shorter exposure time.
We decided on the active tactic, and it worked, although there were times during the night as the wind built to 60 knots and beyond, that I cursed me'self for a worthless lubber. It was quite the scene, in retrospect; wind shrieking, 25-30 foot waves exploding into foam and spindrift at the crests. At times, all 3 of us were steering, one hauling on the tiller and looking aft to be sure we were dead perpendicular to the next wave, the second adding oomph where needed, and the third hauling on the wheel on the side with the good cable when the boat threatened to broach, (turn sideways) on the face of a wave. We knew that the previous owner had managed this trick in a 60-knot storm in the Bay of Biscay in 1969 on Tammy Norie's maiden voyage, which gave us additional confidence, and once into it, in the middle of the night, it would have been pretty tough to change tactics and try to rig a storm anchor. Fortunately, we got away with it, in large part due to Surfin' Tammy Norie and her uncanny ability to swim through just about anything, god bless her.
No doubt it was all very cinematic, but not much fun, and needless to say, no one slept a wink. The fortunate part about the rapid eastward movement of the storm was that it moved off quickly. By daybreak the wind was down to 40 knots and 1 person could steer, although the motion was horrible for about 24 hours due to seas coming from various directions. This was Shifra's first real storm at sea, and she hung in there very bravely, despite getting pretty motion sick toward morning. Joel, being the strongest, bore the brunt of hauling on the tiller, and was equally brave and tireless. No one was injured, just sore arms and backs. Some of our electronics, including the electric autopilot, were out of commission for a while, due to the amount of salt water which came aboard, but all of the essentials are back on line now after some judicious cleaning with fresh water and weasel piss. I'm waiting for a calm to get under the cockpit and replace the steering cable: for now we are fine with the combination of tiller and electric ram. We are catching up on sleep now, praising Neptune and whoever else will listen for our deliverance, and slowly scraping the layers of salt off ourselves. Most amazingly, we turned in a nice 24-hour run of 110 miles in the right direction, and are that much closer to a snug harbor and a hot shower. At which point, we will all begin to endlessly embroider the tale. This may be the last truthful version anyone will hear.
Lunatic irony is at times helpful in such situations, and I kept humming this old British broadside during the night; I've written down what I can remember:
One night there came
a hurricane, the seas were mountains rolling,/
Foolhardy chaps who
live in towns, what dangers they are all in/
And as for those who're
out all day on business from their houses/
And very often have
we heard how men are killed and undone/
Captain's Log, 6 September 1998
Last entry was several
days ago, and it is difficult to know where to start this one. For certain,
we will not book with this cruise line again: the steady diet of humble
pie is becoming monotonous. After Bonnie passed, we had 3 nice days in
which to regroup. We cleaned up the terminals on the electric ram, which
got that autopilot back in action. That bought us time until the wild,
random post-storm seas subsided enough to allow us to work, at which point
we hove to and replaced the frayed steering cable.
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